Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 10


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 10

“What the hell did you two steal?” asked Flint. We were all looking out the window at the fleet of ships.

“Are they hailing us or just sitting there threateningly?” Diamond asked.

“The second,” answered Sphene. She looked scared and it made her look her age, young.

Diamond reached down to her belt and pressed a button on the holo-emitter. “Built into this is a jammer that causes Sun Speakers to not be able to see what’s going to happen. That’s how we got out and how we got away. I turned it off just before they showed up. Figured we were free.”

“We need to look at the data that I got,” I said and sat at the last place on the bridge. It was a basic computer console.

I loaded up the files and there was nothing in the folder about the replicators other than the basic specs. This tech would change the way the system worked. The great thing was that it was simple and easy to reproduce. “I’m not convinced this is worth an armada,” I said, glancing nervously out the front viewport. If any of those ships so much as sneezed, our atoms would be dispersed across the galaxy.

“What about this one?” Diamond pointed at the files marked, “Operation Black-Sun.”

I opened the file. I wasn’t sure how a two hundred year old file could help.

What was in that file seemed to be a simple memo from one of the Sun Speakers to the heads of the military. It detailed the discovery of a ship filled with people from a planet called Earth that came from outside our system. It was filled with advanced tech. I recognized names for everything from propulsion to weapons we currently use. The research facility had been in charge of reverse engineering all the tech.

Past the tech, there was a description of what the Sun Speaker called a False god. The people were escaping a society that had rejected materialism for the teaching of a Sun god. This god sounded a lot like ours but the Sun Speaker in the files described it as a rebel who would be massing a fleet to come with an army to collapse our sun and kill everyone.

The file continued with a series of recommendations. The first was rapid recruitment into Black-Sun, converting more than half the military, of that time, to Black-Sun control. The second was to set up research stations across the system to study and re-create the tech. The third was to introduce Project Black-Sun.

The project was meant to swell the numbers of recruits by recruiting them from birth. Black-Sun demanded the Galactic Government give them half of all children born to be genetically altered and trained as Black-Sun operatives.

“That’s sick!” growled Diamond and I couldn’t disagree with her.

In the past two hundred years, the people had been told that there was a physical condition called Toxic Radiation Syndrome caused by an alien asteroid that had brought with it a radiation that altered our DNA to make it much more likely to give birth to a stillborn child. 

Because of TRS, all birthing parents had to be sedated and the only other people allowed in the room were the doctors and the priests of the Sun God.

This memo said that TRS was made up to create an army to fight a god.

Attached were the current statistics for the standing army of Black-Sun. It numbered almost as much as the entire system. It also wrote that with the deciphering of the replicator, the last pieces were ready for Black-Sun to preemptively attack the rebel god in a system called Sol, nearly three million light years away.

“We have to warn people,” said Onyx.

“Who? How?” I asked.

“Everyone and we need to get home,” Diamond said.

I scoffed, “You’d need an array of massively powerful transmitters and a hacker better than any I’ve ever heard of. And I have no idea how to warn the Sol system.”

Diamond smirked, “We have that and we can transmit this across the system, but we have to get home first. Do you have any bright ideas?” She looked at me and tapped her holo-emitter absentmindedly.

Smiling widely, I replied, “I do. But first, do you have anything explosive on board? Oh, and I’ll need your holo-emitter.”

They did and I had a plan. The holo-emitter and the Sun Speaker blocking tech was based off of what they’d found on the alien ship but altered in a very clever way. Whoever was the original Diamond Stars was brilliant.

I hooked the emitter into our shields and programmed it to show the illusion that we were one of the Black-Sun ships. I then did the calculations to jump us across the fleet to the other side.

The last part of my plan was trickier, but thankfully Diamond had stretched the truth when she had told us the ship had no weapons. It had a collection of older plasma bombs. They were bright and they made lots of messy radiation.

I programmed the bombs to explode and then took the controls of the ship as Flint and Diamond jettisoned them. 

Alone on the bridge with Onyx and Sphene, I asked, “Did you know?” 

“Know what?” Onyx sounded genuinely confused.

“Did you know about Project Black-Sun? You are a doctor.” I couldn’t keep the disgust out of my voice at the word doctor.

His brown eyes grew wide and he shook his head violently. “I had no idea. You have to be an initiate of the Sun Temple to become an obstetrician. I was all about emergency medicine.” Something about his panic made me believe him. Or maybe it was the relieved look on his sister’s face.

I took his hand and kissed it. “If we get out of this, I want to spend a long time in bed.”

“Okay…” Again he sounded confused.

“With you!” I exclaimed, smiling.

“Ew!” Sphene teased.

The bombs went off between us and the fleet at the same time as I activated our jump. When we dropped out of the jump, I activated our new disguise and hoped.

Read Chapter 11 (November 2021)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Lots of stuff

Hello my Imaginary friends,

I love Autumn! Halloween, cooler weather, PUMPKINS, and everything else that goes with this season. (Although this year I’m seriously missing the conventions and the parties.)

It’s a good thing I love this season because mentally and physically, it sucks. I’ve always thought it was stress that made this time of year hard, but I’m starting to realize it’s allergies and season changes.

Spring and Fall are the hardest on me. My hands ache, I feel anxious and weak. Then there’s my allergy symptoms which include fatigue, coughing, stuffy nose, nasal pressure, and trouble sleeping.

I’m seriously looking forward to snow. The snow covers the ground and freezes the allergens and reflects more light. Overall, when nights freeze and snow comes, I start feeling better. Until the melt anyway.

Book 2 of the Gates of Westmeath is cruising by. We’ve been writing since early October and have already finished the first third. I’m hoping we’ll be done the book by Christmas.

I’m impressed by how easy it has been to write this book. Hopefully that holds out for the next two thirds.

It’s hard sometimes, realizing the authors and creators who make things you love are human. Sometimes not very nice humans. I wrote about my disillusionment before.

So it was nice to get a reminder that there are good people in the world when I saw this facebook post:

Thank you Tamora Pierce for being an awesome person. If you haven’t read anything by her, I highly recommend all her books. We named our daughter after one of her characters.

Completely unrelated I have the most adorable cape:

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Muppets Haunted Mansion – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 special Muppets Haunted Mansion.

Story

This was a love story to the beloved ride. The story is a bare bones outline of the ride with some touching moments in between.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The main characters are Gonzo and Pepe. I find Pepe extremely annoying, I’ve never been a fan of the womanizing characters. I understand why they used him for this story, though.

Gonzo goes through a good story arc and speaks to older fans and younger ones as well.

The rest of the muppets have nice cameos.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

It was everything a good muppets movie should be. It had music, puns, and lots of jokes. I especially liked the shameless use of quotes from the ride.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

It was a very well shot and designed film. The background details are designed for that cross-section of Haunted Mansion fans and Muppet fans. Down to muppet-a-fying the wallpaper.

The music is a lot of fun and I wish there had been more. I liked the spooky muppet show opening song version at the end.

Score: 1

Fun

Be warned that although this isn’t scary, it does have a lot of jump scares. The kids liked it, although the five year old found it too scary due to the jump scares.

It was nice and nostalgic for those of us that grew up with the muppets show and movies.

Score: 1

Overall

This is a wonderful mix of classic Muppet humour and nostalgia for the Haunted Mansion ride. The littles might dislike the jump scares, but overall it’s a lot of fun.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5.

A little pixie magic

The very first thing we did when we arrived in Disney World in January 2020 was go see Tinkerbell. Pegasus was so excited. Dragon was a little overwhelmed to be holding TInkerbell’s hand.

Ages of the kids: Dragon is 3 years 4 months, Pegasus is 7 months

Guitar Lessons Part 12

Sep 6: Happy

I passed Greensleeves! I played it slower a few times (75%, 80%, 85%) before attempting it at full speed. I made a few mistakes (got two stars on two parts instead of three stars) but I passed it according to the app, so I’m really happy with my progress today.

I’ve started practicing my chords both without the capo and with, because there is a lot less space for my fingers when the capo is on, so I figure I should practice that.

I played my song. The first time through it is rough still. It’s like my brain forgets what the rhythm is supposed to be overnight. I recorded myself, and I’m actually pretty happy with it. I feel like my strumming is improving a lot, which is nice to see. I definitely notice the slow downs when I change chords, but I know my speed will improve with practice, so I’m not beating myself up over that.

Context for the song: In my book Crushing It, not yet submitted to a publisher, 14yo boy (A) wrote the lyrics for this song in half an hour as he was trying to make sense of his emotions towards his new friend (B). A then plays it for B to tell B that A likes B.

I figure it makes sense for the song to start off slow, because he’s figuring out what chords he likes for the song, and then it picks up in the second verse. The bridge is slow again, as is the last line (because mirroring).

I hope you like it! Drop me a comment!

P.S. I’ve only been playing guitar for just over two months. You can follow my progress if you click on my tags!

Sep 7: Brief but satisfying

I tried Greensleeves again today and passed. I’m very proud of myself. Then I moved on to the next lesson: Aloha. It is very fast. So I dropped down to practice mode and played it at 50%, 60%, and 70%. I’m pleased by my progress so far.

I practiced my chords, both with and without the capo, and then listened to yesterday’s recording to remind myself of the rhythm. I think that was a good idea because I didn’t fumble over it nearly as much as I did yesterday. I am very happy with how it sounded today.

I felt like a real musician!

Then I played Frère Jacques, just so I can play it with my daughter.

Yesterday afternoon, I played the soprano ukulele for over an hour! It was a lot of fun and my son enjoyed it. (Daughter was at her piano lesson.)

Sep 8: Short

I played the Aloha song in practice mode at 70% and 80% speed. I didn’t make too many mistakes and was pretty happy with my progress.

I played Frère Jacques several times for my daughter to sing along with. The third line is causing her problems, but she’ll get better with practice.

Last, I played my song. I didn’t need to listen to the recording first, which was nice progress.

I still love it.

Sep 9: Oops

Forgot to write my post today. I did play. I completed Aloha! I was very proud. 3 stars across the board. My daughter applauded for me.

We sang Frère Jacques together. Her voice is getting better.

My song is going well. I need to work on my rhythm.

Sep 10: Practice

Today I worked on a new melody. It requires all four fingers on all but the top string and it is very fast. I practiced it at 50%, 60%, and 70% speeds today. I was pleased with my progress.

I practiced my chords and then played my song a bunch. I really need to focus on the rhythm. I keep changing it to match the rhythm of the words. It’s really hard to separate the two.

Then I played Frère Jacques. I also tried it with chords. That’s really hard to change between them. Practice will probably help.

Sep 11: Too long

I passed the lesson I was working on (2,2,3,3 stars). I’ll try it again tomorrow and see if I can get 3 stars across the board.

Then I brought my guitar up to the main level for the rest of my practice. I played my chords first and then my song.

I worked on my rhythm… With mild success. It’s ok. I have the time to work on it.

Then I played many many songs from my app. Too many. My fingers hurt a bit.

I hope I didn’t overdo it.

Update: it’s been 3.5 hours since I stopped playing and my fingertips are still a little numb. Definitely ukulele tomorrow.

Writing is Hard, Publishing is Harder

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m not asking for help or for advice, I just need to vent.

I’ve been writing my whole life. First novel was started when I was ten. I started writing seriously (meaning I actually finished my novels and stories) a dozen years ago. My first book was published in 2016 after 6 years of rewrites and re-submits.

My sixth book has just come out and I’m feeling a little frustrated. I feel like every book I publish is getting less readers, less reviews, and less interest. I have a lot of little easter eggs and details that cross between books and I’d love to hear someone geek out about them. (Other than my wife, mother-in-law, and daughter.)

I know part of it is caused from not seeing anyone, other than family, since March 2020. I miss talking to other authors, readers, and fans at conventions and in person.

My last two books have been launched digitally and it doesn’t give me any time to chat with one person at a time.

So I guess I’m both sad that my books aren’t reaching more people and that I can’t talk with people.

There’s hope for both cases; my publisher has recently gotten a distribution and promotion deal for all their books. And Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine for 5-11 year olds and they say that 4 and under isn’t far away.

I have high hopes for Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (the book Jen and I co-wrote) next year. It’s set to be released in Fall and hopefully we can have an in-person release party. I’ll also hopefully be able to attend Can-Con that year.

Part of the distribution of new releases for my publisher means that some of the the books get placed in bookstores. The most recent wave, several amazing authors have had their books in stores. (Mine isn’t because it’s part of a series and they don’t put book 3.5 when they don’t have 1-3.)

I look forward to seeing Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers in bookstores. I hope it gets all the attention it deserves. It’s a fantastic book.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric


Learning a New Instrument

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

In case you hadn’t realized, my amazing wife has been learning guitar. When she first started, she was playing on her dad’s full sized guitar and wasn’t sure if she wanted to get a smaller guitar or a ukulele.

At the same time, we’d been binging High School Musical the Musical the Series. In it, one of the characters pulls out her uke and starts to fiddle with it.

It made me miss learning and playing bass guitar.

I stopped playing bass because I had no one to play with and because it was a pain in the ass to pull it out of it’s case and plug it in. I realize this is seriously lazy, but between kids, work, and writing, finding time to practise is hard enough, add in needing to go get it and set it up. Arg. It’s also awkward to hold and practise when your kids are touching everything.

Anyway, I thought the idea of the ukulele was pretty awesome. Four strings, light, pretty noises. When my wife bought her guitar, I said she should get a uke at the same time. We bought a tenor ukulele which is slightly bigger for my large fingers.

I’ve been learning with Yousician. It’s a fun app but has some serious lacks.

I’m learning that my issues with instruments are universal. I’m slow to learn rhythm and have a hard time playing a song I don’t know.

For saxophone, this meant listening to a song over and over again, until I could feel it. For bass guitar, that meant practicing until it felt natural. For ukulele, I think it’ll have to be a mixture of both.

Strumming is the big challenge for me right now, but I’ll keep trying.

The goal as always is to have fun and make pretty noises.

Be kind and stay safe,

Éric

Black Widow – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Black Widow.

Story

I was hoping for a story about how amazing Natasha was; instead we got a story that felt like it really needed to knock her down a peg in every fight.

This wasn’t a story about Natasha as Black Widow, it was a convoluted mess of a set up for Yelena to become Black Widow.

Other than being a backstory for a character we don’t know, there are some odd choices. The movie doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a spy thriller or a superhero movie.

Story: 0

Character

Natasha was not quite as badly written as she was in previous movies, but that isn’t a high bar. The rest of the cast was fantastic and a little cheesy. Yelena was a great character with a lot of fun moments.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

I liked how the characters interacted and the little jabs at the ridiculous dialogue of past movies. The banter was realistic and funny.

This movie has a significant amount of good lines, shade, and throwbacks.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was well filmed, but had a lot of shaking and cutting for my taste. The franticness of the camera often tried to make up for the lack of urgency in the action scenes. Each action scene followed the same script and it got a little boring by the end.

The scenery was wonderful.

The music was okay, but the Black Widow theme was repetitive, loud, and annoying.

Score: 0.5

Fun

The movie felt like it wanted to be a six part series. There were a lot of decisions that I didn’t like and I felt that Black Widow was again treated like a set piece and punching bag.

My daughter found it a little too violent and scary; my son got bored.

Score: 0.5

Overall

This movie should have been better, putting Black Widow into her spy element, but instead it forgot she was a spy and tried to turn her into an action star without any real triumph. In the end it’s an interesting introduction to the future Black Widow, but not a proper send off for the MCU’s worst treated and written character.

Final Score: 2.5 Stars out of 5

Guitar Lessons Part 11

Sep 1: A surprise

My lesson today was half instructional and half a new song.

The instructional was all about down and up picking (single strings). The guy said to rest my wrist on the board at the end of the strings so that I would know where my pick was.

Ok, so first off, that pushes my arm too far back, so it hurts my back. I was in pain within a minute.

Secondly, I don’t have a traditional board because my strings are attached to pegs. So if I rest on it, it mutes my strings.

Also, I have no idea which string I’m on when I use a pick! I got so lost!

The new song was Scarborough Fair. I managed the first note and then got completely lost because it was so fast. So I dropped into practice mode and lowered the speed to 50% and even then, I only got the right notes about 50-75% of the time. Suffice it to say, I did not speed up today and I finished the lesson very frustrated.

I played my song next, my daughter singing along. I decided to attempt recording. There’s a special guest who sang along with me.

Please pardon the roughness of it. I’m not used to singing with someone else. Also, I’ve only been playing for two months, so please be gentle.

Context of the song: a boy (14yo) has realized he’s gay and he’s telling his friend (15yo) that he likes him as more than a friend. Their story is written in my book “Crushing It” that will be submitted to my publisher in October.

After recording, I played a bunch of songs and they all went fairly well. I’m pleased with my progress. I can switch between chords much faster than I used to and my fingers don’t hurt.

Sep 2: Slow and steady

I think I was holding my picking wrist too tense because I was trying to get the song.

I managed to get the 50% and then I sped up to 70%, which wasn’t too bad. So I sped up to 80%. I made a lot of mistakes, but I felt like I was making progress.

And then I noticed my wrist was hurting.

So I practiced my chords and my song and left my practice session at that.

My wrist has already stopped hurting. I think I was smart to stop when I did.

Sep 3: Nursery rhymes

I played my lesson (Scarborough Fair) at 75% and then at 80% (with several errors) and then because I wanted to see what would happen, I tried to perform it (for scoring in the app).

I passed.

Yeah.

I’m shocked too.

I didn’t play the full time because I decided I should look up Frère Jacques so I could teach our daughter the words. We realized yesterday that she didn’t know any French songs, other than the months of the year. She enjoyed learning it. I’ll be adding it to my regular practice time to give her practice.

Then I played my song.

For some reason, I’m not playing the A chord properly today. 🤷‍♀️

I decided I should probably stop playing today because my fingers and back were hurting.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to normal.

Sep 4: Strumming!

My app lesson was tough today. I replayed Scarborough Fair with pretty decent success. I was happy to move on. Next lesson was Greensleeves. Omg. So fast! I’m going to have to slow it down considerably tomorrow.

Then I played my song. I added some extra strumming to it to change it up a bit. Omg! I absolutely adore how it sounds on the chorus! I desperately need to work on the rhythm of entire second verse and on the Fmaj7 in the chorus, but it’s really coming together. I’m ridiculously excited about it.

After that, I played a variety of songs by request from my daughter and then we worked on Frère Jacques. She’s enjoying it.

I love it when my fingers don’t hurt even after a long playing session.

Sep 5: Greensleeves

It’s a REALLY good thing that I like Greensleeves as a song, because I have a feeling I’m going to be stuck on it for a while. Today I slowed it down to 50%, and I still wasn’t able to get all of it. I sped it up to 60% and then 70% and was able to complete just as much as on 50%, so I was pretty happy about that.

After my lesson, I practiced my song a bunch, focussing on the new rhythms. It’s HARD to play one rhythm and sing a melody! I’m really happy with how the chorus is coming along. The verse still needs a lot of work. I might try recording it tomorrow. I’ll see how it goes. Even if it’s only for me. I find it’s easier to hear where the issues are if I’m listening to it rather than playing it.

I practiced Frere Jacques. It’s coming a lot faster now and I don’t need the music.

My fingers are a little sore today. I think I was pressing too hard while practicing my song.